The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) has commissioned a study of the Braamfontein Spruit, a 20km long green space running through Johannesburg, to outline steps for its rehabilitation.
Construction and development of the river’s surrounding areas has resulted in erosion and pollution, which have degraded the trails and bridges. The most popular of the trails run all the way from Delta Park in Emmarentia to Bryanston in the north.
Mpho Kau, JRA acting managing director said in a statement, “the city shares the concerns of residents about the environmental degradation along the Braamfontein Spruit.” The “priority project” will outline steps to combat safety issues and water quality along the Spruit. The river and green spaces alongside it are all publicly accessible and it serves as a popular recreational route for cyclists, joggers and horse riders alike.
“As an open public park, it’s quite phenomenal. What other town in the world has 20 to 30 kilometres of green belt where trail riders can practice?” asked Sean Lawrence, an employee at bicycle shop Trail Heads located next to the Spruit in Blairgowrie. Lawrence welcomed the announcement of the study but remains cautious about its execution. “I’m indifferent until it really happens,” he said.
Community groups such as the Spruit Fairies and Swampdogs have already taken up the task of maintenance of the Spruit, however, the law restricts them from building bridge crossings or even putting up signage for Spruit users.“Traffic on the weekends sees up to 2 000 people, including horse riders, cyclists and joggers using the same trails,” said Lawrence. “But we’re not allowed to put down signage.”
Anne Belle, an employee at local urban design company , 2610 South, said that properties along the Spruit have reduced in price due to the negative perceptions of the Spruit. “This perception could certainly be reversed if the City of Joburg implemented a management framework for the area,” she said.
The study commissioned by the JRA includes a consultation forum in which members of the public can raise their concerns. If successful, community groups such as the Spruit Faries may be given the chance to put forward practical solutions to problems faced by Spruit users.
- Wits Vuvuzela, “Switch off for #earthhour”, March 2016